Luna ‘spins’ economic data

Tom Luna’s guest editorials claiming that the rich bear most of the tax burden and that Republican tax cuts don’t increase deficits were sad reminders of Republicans resisting science and misrepresenting evidence.  

In 2010 Republicans mailed candidates pamphlets showing that states that cut taxes on the rich saw an increase in per capita income. The implication was that everyone benefitted. But that’s not true. If one person earning $4 billion a year joins a population of 20,000 people making $50,000 a year, the per capita income shoots from $50,000 to $249,987 a year without anyone’s income changing.  Lower taxes for the rich may entice billionaires to the latest tax haven without helping anyone else.

Tom Luna follows suit in claiming a fact implies something that it doesn’t.  “The top 10% of Americans, in terms of income, paid over 71% of all taxes. The top 50% of Americans paid 97% of all taxes. The bottom 50%  pay just 3%. Now that’s a ‘tax-gap’.”

He clearly implies the very rich are being overtaxed and most of us are freeloaders. What these figures do prove, however, is that the rich get a lot more income than the rest of us. Of course, Luna’s figures include only income taxes where those who make more pay a higher rate. It doesn’t include all the other taxes we pay–FICA, Medicare, sales, property and others..

In April 2019 the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported that the lowest 60% of earners made 20.3% of the income and paid 16.4% of the taxes. The top 20%, on the other hand, made 61.9% of the income and paid 66.5% of the taxes. Those making nine times more income than the majority pay only a small rate more.   

And I’d laugh at Luna’s crocodile tears about the growing national debt if it weren’t a real danger.

One-fourth of the current national debt was added during the four years of the Trump administration–$7.8 trillion out of $28.5 trillion. Spending caused it?  Well, nothing got spent without approval by the President and the Republicans in Congress. Republicans complain about social security and welfare, but they siphon a lot of money to corporate donors.  . 

The national debt tripled under President Reagan–from $997.8 billion to $2.89 trillion. George W. Bush doubled it–from $5.8 trillion to $11.65–and left the economy in shambles. The debt increased by 8 trillion during Obama’s eight years–but Trump managed nearly as much in four years.    .

But one seldom hears a Republican complaint about debt increases during a Republican administration. That indicates they aren’t as afraid of the debt as they are dead set against Democratic reforms. Biden’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill included funding sources, but, at Republican insistence, they were cut from the pared-down version. Democrats today are brainstorming new funding sources. 

Luna points to a single $14 billion increase in revenue, caused primarily by inflation, as proof that tax cuts boost the economy. Study after study, however, shows that tax cuts do not boost the economy enough to make up for lost revenue. 

Cutting taxes on the rich would make sense if the country was short on capital. It’s not. U.S. companies have trillions in off-shore banks. Decades of low wages, however, have meant sluggish growth in customer spending. . 

That’s why, during the pandemic, the Republicans didn’t pass another tax cut, but voted for a huge weekly payment for the unemployed plus bonus checks for everyone.

In a crisis, they knew further tax cuts wouldn’t help .   

A Republican civil war?

I was surprised to see that Republicans spoke openly to Idaho Press reporter Erin Banks Rusby about infighting within the Canyon County Republican Party. 

Far right challenges seem to have always been active in Idaho–the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, the anti-communist frenzy of the McCarthyites in the 1950s, the John Birch society soon after. In the late 1990s a Republican central committee member told me that a group had changed the site of a Central Committee meeting without telling the chair. And in 2014 the Republicans had the Idaho convention that wasn’t–delegates could not agree on who the duly elected delegates were much less on a platform. 

But most of the time, the centrists remained solidly in the majority. 

This year far right Republicans outnumbered the centrists in the Idaho House by 10 votes.  And it’s made them bolder. 

Patti Syme, the current chair of the Canyon County Republican Central Committee admitted the problem, “We are so distracted by every other rabbit hole that it’s difficult to get anything accomplished.” As central committee member Sarah Chaney explained to the Idaho Press, the far right aims to exhaust leaders and force them to give up. 

This month former Attorney General Jim Jones, a Republican, called on Democrats to register as Republicans and vote for moderates in the primaries next May. Centrists have steadily lost ground since Republicans banned independents and Democrats from their primaries in 2011.

Jones’s suggestion brought mixed reactions from Democrats. At least 20,000 Democrats are currently registered Republican, but some firmly oppose this. A Lewiston-area native on the Democratic State Committee posted on Facebook, “Give me a Break, I’m not about to try and fix stupid!” Comments ranged from “They poured this cup, let them drink it,” to “If we don’t fix stupid in May, we all are going to be affected by the results.” 

A suggestion that we put all the candidates on the same primary ticket and then have the top two on the ballot in November got some support. It’s done elsewhere. It makes me worry, however, that many Idahoans would never see a Democrat on the general election ballot again. 

The battle within the Republican party is national, and a New York Times guest editorial featured a call for Republicans to vote for Democrats whenever a centrist Republican wasn’t on their ballot. Co-author Miles Taylor served at the Department of Homeland Security during the early Trump administration. His partner, Christine Whitman, is a former governor of New Jersey. 

They state the problem bluntly, “Rational Republicans are losing the G.O.P. civil war.”

Taylor and Whitman aren’t worried about the extremists’ attacks on public schools and the vaccine or their refusal to address climate change. They have one issue.

 “GOP leaders…have now turned belief in conspiracy theories and lies about stolen elections into a litmus test for membership and running for office.” They oppose the “refusing to accept the results of elections or undermining the certification of those results should they lose.” 

This pair feel third parties are destined to lose so they support crossing party lines instead. Their organization, Renew America Movement, plans to endorse 24 Congressional candidates for the 2022 elections–Republicans who’ve dared to speak out against former President Trump and moderate Democrats in swing districts without such Republican candidates. Their website does, however, have a 10-point platform saying where they stand.    

We need to hear from the moderate Republicans in Canyon County–and all of Idaho–just how they differ from the opposition. Until they make that clear, this is just a battle for power between new and old factions.  

A good news week?

 Is it somehow unAmerican to write of good news anymore?

One can’t focus on the jobs ahead without concentrating on what needs fixing.  This moment, however, I’m very happy about some recent news.

For one, the 7-day average for new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has fallen by 40% since Sept. 1? Theories exist as to why this virus has such a cycle, but it’s still quite puzzling. Still, around the world, health care workers are getting a small break that–unless we get a new mutation like Delta–might become a lengthy one.  .

Unfortunately, Idaho didn’t follow this national trend.  Our case numbers have actually  risen over 40% since Sept. 1.  But the numbers have levelled off the past two weeks. We can hope there’s a big drop ahead for us, too.  

And we all have to be thankful that the immediate debt limit crisis was avoided. After 11 Republicans joined Democrats in stopping the boycott against debating the bill, it passed on a straight party voter. So the government will keep paying its workers and its debt holders for nearly three more months. 

This legislation only postpones debate Dec.2.  But the 2021 Congressional calendar calls for the holiday recess to start just one week later..We can hope members chose a tight schedule so negotiations will be short. They couldn’t enjoy a vacation while the economy crumbles, could they? 

And local developments do indicate that democracy is still alive and thriving. We’ve got dozens of local campaigns underway with candidates with a variety of backgrounds and views reaching out to voters and an independent redistricting commission that’s listening to voters throughout the state.   .

And the fact that members of Congress aren’t in agreement on some major issues is not the bad news some media makes it out to be.  

There’s a lot of give-and-take over two important projects–the protection of voting rights and the second infrastructure bill, aka the $3.5 trillion or Build Back Better infrastructure bill. Sure, it could end up a failure for Democrats, but many voted for Biden because of his experience brokering compromises. The President wants to see movement in the right direction, but he’ll accept baby steps if that’s the most he can get. 

The more conservative Senate Democrats unveiled a new voting rights bill about a month ago. It isn’t as comprehensive as the For the People Act passed by the House last March but it definitely is a step forward. It includes many practices that Idaho adopted long ago–same day registration, acceptance of specified picture ID cards, absentee ballots by request, restoration of voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences; and an end to partisan gerrymandering of legislative and Congressional districts. 

Idahoans can be proud of their voting laws.   

House progressives have signed on, but that still leaves the task of finding 10 Republican senators who will vote to stop a filibuster. It’s happened twice now, we can hope.  Voting reform is popular with a solid majority of voters.  

Democrats still haven’t come to agreement on an infrastructure bill. Republicans and conservative Democrats insist on not restoring some taxes on billionaires that could pay the entire amount. Instead, they’d cut programs to $2.3 or $1.5 trillion instead. 

Democrats, however, can bypass the filibuster by making this the one budget reconciliation bill they’re allowed to bring to the Senate floor this year.  .   

Everything is stewing at once–and it promises to be a healthy boost to America.  

The week that was

The government didn’t shut down Friday.  At the last minute Congress extended funding. Social security checks will continue coming, and our myriad government agencies will continue plugging away–at least until Dec. 3 when this extension expires.

The bill passed Thursday by a 65-35 vote. Idaho senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo were among the 35 Republicans who voted to furlough government workers and stop all government checks.It must be part of the conservatism that keeps them near and dear to Idaho Republicans.

Now, Congress has until Oct. 18 to raise the debt limit. Not doing so will require immediate cuts in spending or defaulting on our debt; either would trigger a recession and widespread unemployment. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell–who’s personally voted to raise the limit 33 times– says that Republicans will vote doing so again in order to stop Democratic programs.

Republicans figure a recession prior to the 2022 elections could put them back in power.

But in Idaho, Covid-19 continues to occupy the news–and with good reason. Although the number of cases is less than the peak last December, the number of hospitalizations and deaths are setting records. The 7-day average for hospitalizations was 742 on Sept. 30, more than tenfold higher than the low of 67 in July and 50% higher than the peak of 467 last December.

Similarly, the 7-day average for Idaho Covid deaths rose to 50 on Sept. 30, from a low of three in July, and the previous high of 20 last December..

A year ago, many of us looked forward to liberation once a vaccine was developed. Instead, we’re masking and distancing, mourning with loved ones, and reading about the crisis in our hospitals.

And we’re learning that many anti-vaxxers weren’t terrible people. Many of those dying were assets to our communities. Too many were young; some were pregnant.

A recent article on the morale of hospital personnel stressed that they didn’t blame unvaccinated patients, but those who led them to become anti-vaxxers; those who claimed that the entire medical community was conspiring with Big Pharma for some purpose or another; those who preached that the pandemic didn’t exist except as a scare tactic to get people to take a vaccine that caused health crises and deaths–and possibly contained microscopic chips that could spy on us; those who said we should trust God to protect us–even as we routinely rely on pasteurized milk, clean water, and sanitary food processing.

So who are the “they” responsible for killing thousands of Americans each day? Hint: 23 of the 25 states with the lowest vaccination rates are Republican.

Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science was published in 2006 and is still in print today. It details how Republicans  fought science in order to stop research and regulations for environmental, health and work safety. They continued to support the tobacco industry when it was well known that their products cause cancer, to protect oil and coal companies from actions to slow global warming, and to allow pharmaceutical companies to charge exorbitant amounts for drugs created in labs funded by taxpayers.

Republicans have lied and distorted science every step of the way.  For a decade,the worst attempts to restore unlimited corporate pollution were halted by the courts. The Trump administration, however, appointed 226 judges, including 54 appeals court judges. Will many side with corporations rather than people?

So we can blame an unnamed “they” for promoting an unreasonable fear of the Covid vaccine. But Republicans created the audience for them, an audience suspicious of, and lacking respect for, scientific research.

Local elections affect us all 

One can argue that city and school elections make as much difference in our lives as the state and Federal elections that get much more attention.  

Think about the city departments that our mayors and council members supervise.  Fire and police services come to mind immediately. Water, sewage, and roads and sidewalks. And don’t forget libraries, parks and swimming pools. Then there are street lights, bike lanes and walking paths. Garbage service. And zoning. Decorations and celebrations.  

And cities occasionally build impressive extras like Nampa’s city auditorium and   Caldwell’s Indian Creek Plaza.

School districts focus on kids almost exclusively, but still offer a variety of services. Getting kids scheduled for required classes is central, but there is also transportation, meals, sports, arts, and electives. There is counseling, nursing, and services for those with special needs. And when additional space is needed, we expect board members to understand the research, listen to children and parents, meet with consultants and builders, and then make decisions that will affect the whole community.  

We elect citizen boards responsible for hiring and supervising the professionals who run the day-to-day operations because we want someone from–and open to–the community to represent us.  And we expect these individuals to understand the needs, options, and legal framework involved. We count on them to look into the future and anticipate the consequences of each action.  

And for this we pay most of them absolutely nothing except an occasional free meal and health insurance. 

And It’s surprising if even 20% of the registered voters cast a ballot.  

Admittedly, it takes effort to pick your candidate in low-budget races without even a voters’ pamphlet from the county. And party labels wouldn’t help much. As one Boise Council member says, “There’s no Republican or Democratic way to get clean water to homes.”

There are better ways and worse ways, but party platforms don’t provide a guide.

Since most of us will be voting on fewer than five positions, however, it’s not too difficult to get informed. We can research one seat a week or divide up the task with others.  Thanks to our libraries, we can access the Internet. Most candidates have a FB or web page, and we can do a Google search on each name. Complete candidate lists for Ada County are at https://adacounty.id.gov/elections/candidate-filings/; for Canyon County, https://www.canyonco.org/candidate-filings/. (Some county residents will find there are no contested races for their neighborhood.)

And you can watch for the Idaho Press to publish some candidate surveys.  

Who do you want as a candidate?

Someone who cares about every member of the community.

Someone who can see the big picture and still work to nail down each detail. 

Someone who can articulate their ideas to other board members. 

Someone who understands negotiations and teamwork. 

Avoid single-issue candidates who don’t express an interest in the variety of problems board members must tackle. And, although it can be hard to discern, try to avoid those who are more interested in the title and prestige than in our community.

 I personally don’t believe people who’ve lived in the community for less than a year will get enough feedback from friends and neighbors to represent us well.  And I’d never trust a candidate who doesn’t want his full name on the ballot. Why would he hinder web searches?. 

You can apply for an absentee ballot through Friday, Oct. 22 (https://voteidaho.gov/). Early voting will start Monday, Oct. 18, in Canyon County and possibly even earlier in Ada County. 

Voting is a serious responsibility.  Do your best.